The Nottingham private prosecutions

It will have been obvious to those following Your NZ in July-August 2015 that there was some legal stuff happening. But I was then gagged through suppression orders so had to be careful what I posted. Until now.

Yesterday morning NZ Herald reported Blogger dodges prison over court suppression breaches, harassment campaigns

A blogger described as “malicious and nasty” has narrowly avoided prison after breaching suppression orders in a prominent Auckland court case and leading a prolonged campaign of criminal harassment against five people, including a former MP.

Dermot Gregory Nottingham was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention and 100 hours’ community work today in the Auckland District Court, after what Judge Jonathan Down described as a blatant and contemptuous breach of court orders and an arrogant view of right and wrong.

A jury found Nottingham guilty of five criminal harassment charges and two breaches of court suppression orders following a trial, in which Nottingham represented himself, during April and May.

That case is closely linked to my legal misadventure, so much so that suppression on that was also applied to a private prosecution of myself and others.

I posted on this sentencing, trusting that the Herald would have carefully complied with suppression orders. Yesterday I sought and eventually got confirmation from the Auckland District Court that suppression had lapsed in that case, which meant that it will have also lapsed in my case.

Nottingham has a legal history that goes back a long way, including private prosecutions. That’s a different story.

This story is long and complicated – I will keep it as concise as possible – about my legal dealings with him have been going for three years, and are not over yet, with an application seeking leave to appeal currently before the Court of Appeal, with Nottingham promising to take it to the Supreme Court if he fails (again) with that.

While Nottingham is at the centre of all of this he has not acted alone. In my case others have been closely involved, including long time business associate and employer Robert Earle McKinney, brothers Phillip and I believe Antony (the Netherlands LF connection), Marc Spring and Cameron Slater.

In April 2015 NZ Herald published a report. A revised version of this is still online: Man accused of suppression breach

An Auckland man accused of breaching a high-profile name suppression has been granted name suppression himself.

The man appeared in Auckland District Court today facing two charges of contravening suppression orders. He is also charged with five counts of criminal harassment.

That article was republished by the Otago Daily Times, and as the original headline referred to it being a blogger it also attracted interest posts here on Your NZ and at The Standard.

Slater was an obvious candidate, as he had a history of suppression breaches resulting in convictions on multiple charges, but I could quickly rule him out. I did quite a bit of searching but ended up having no idea who this person was,

As with most stories it quickly faded into history. But it resurfaced in July when out of the blue I was served with court papers that were an application to lay charges against me for breaching suppression by a private prosecutor, Dermot Nottingham. This confirmed that Nottingham was the subject of the April article, the first time I knew it was him. At that stage I had heard of him but knew little about him.

Nottingham says he first went to the police but they declined to act, so he decided to conduct private prosecutions against myself, APN (Herald), Allied press (ODT) and Lynn Prentice.

Earle McKinney arranged for service of the papers. I willingly complied, having no idea what they were about. The application to lay charges claimed a conspiracy between police, court officials and the Herald.

It alleged that I had ‘entered into an online agreement with Lyn Prentice’, which was ridiculous – lprent had just re-banned me from the Standard (for a year) on 1 April 2015 after a previous one month ban in March.

About a week later Marc Spring served two charging documents – alternative charges of suppression breaches. This raised some suspicions, because about the time the first document was served Spring had suddenly started niggling at me, including suggesting I might be fucked over by Whale Oil like someone else had been, on Twitter in tandem with an LF account.

I did some investigating and found that Spring had been commenting on Your NZ since January 2015 using multiple pseudonyms. I had clashed with him when, as I later found out, he started attacking a Matthew Blomfield which was in breach of a Slater court agreement and a restraining order against Spring. That is a whole different (albeit related) story (also still before the courts, with a defamation hearing Blomfield v Slater due later this year).

The charges were odd – I was charged with publishing an article, the name of which matched a post at The Standard. Through the course of the proceedings I pointed out this was ridiculous and completely unfounded but that was ignored by the courts and by Nottingham.

As with much of Nottingham’s legal stuff it is difficult to know what is incompetence and what is deliberate confusion and chaos. I think it is usually a mangled mess of both.

Nottingham rang me soon after the charges were served, and we exchanged emails over a couple of days. He suggested I should plead guilty. Believing I was probably not guilty, I declined to commit, instead saying that I would seek legal advice. Over the next couple of weeks I found a lawyer to advise and represent me. This was my first experience with law and courts so I needed help. I (and my lawyer) had no idea what we were getting into.

A day or two after declining to confess I received an abrupt email from McKinney, saying he had been given instructions to scour the Internet, threatening further prosecutions, and demanded I respond by 4 pm that afternoon. I had no idea who McKinney was at that stage.

As it turned out McKinney was working closely with Nottingham. They always shared the same email address, Nottingham was purportedly an employee of McKinney, with both acting for Advantage Advocacy Ltd – now in liquidation.

McKinney eventually provided a witness statement in the prosecution. He also acted for Nottingham, including signing court submissions on his behalf. He is not a lawyer and I suspect this isn’t legally correct.

After another not very nice email from McKinney that was seemingly dealt with, but McKinney did a lot over the next few months to, I believe, lay further charges and when that failed, Nottingham tried to get a whole bunch of accusations included in his prosecution. The court never allowed this.

In July the LF website had already posted about me being in a ‘dirty dozen’ of journalists and bloggers and made other insinuations. In August more posts started to appear, targeting me, making outlandish claims and accusations, and these continued for about a year.

LF had in the post campaigned on some worthy causes. Occasionally. But I found out that mostly they found fragments of facts, grossly embellished them, jumped to ridiculous conclusions, and generally attacked and defamed many people. Their website was eventually shut down after court action against them. They popped up somewhere else but seem to have been stopped from posting there last year.

Many of the LF campaigns against people were closely aligned with Nottingham’s so-called justice campaigning. LF detailed a number of instances where they and Nottingham worked together.

And in the court case in which Nottingham has just been sentenced, according the the Herald report, he admits “supplying information to an overseas website”. It happens that that ‘overseas website’ contained almost entirely New Zealand related content, often closely related to Nottingham’s legal crusading.

It appears that LF was based overseas simply to try to avoid New Zealand law. That eventually blew up in Nottingham.

The private prosecution progressed slowly, with many delays and disruptions.

The first hearing was in September in Auckland where the charges were filed. My and Allied Press’ charges were transferred to Dunedin where they should have been laid in the first place – in the court closest to the defendants,

What followed was a hopeless legal mess.

When charges are laid within 15 working days the prosecutor is supposed to provide initial disclosure, that is supposed to clearly explain the charges and the case against you. It is normally brief, especially in simple cases as theoretically this one should have been, a few pages. That was due by mid August 2015.

After Nottingham failed to provide this lawyer’s requests were sent, the court directed compliance, and then set dates by which it had to be provided. By late November it still hadn’t been done – and at one stage Nottingham said he was deliberately withholding it pending ‘further investigations’.

Finally in early December documents arrived. A lot of them. A pile 9 cm thick. Largely a pile of nonsense. Much of it was screen shots of web pages and printouts of articles and posts. Most if not all of it would have been inadmissible. It was a monster of a mess, but it all had to be read in case there was something critical to the case in it. That gets expensive when you’re paying a lawyer. I did quite a bit of the reading and summarised.

One interesting thing I discovered – Cameron Slater was an informant for the prosecution.

McKinney’s witness statement was included, most if not all would have been inadmissible.

An expert witness was named, but nothing ever eventuated from them. They turned out to be the creditor that initiated the liquidation of Advantage Advocacy.

When lawyers made it clear that disclosure was manifestly inadequate the judge arranged a conference call in mid December to organise a way forward. Nottingham filed memoranda the morning immediately prior – very late filings became the norm – and tried to turn it into a move to imprison me by Christmas.

The judge rejected this, but due to the disruptions adjourned for another conference the following day. More late filings, another shambles. Nottingham blocked me from listening to his accusations and claims. As a result the judge ruled that conference calls were out of the question.

A date for the next hearing was set. Nottingham said he needed a holiday and wanted to wait until the following March. The judge obliged – throughout the protracted court proceedings I have been amazed and disappointed how much different judges have pandered to Nottingham, at the expense of the defendants.

in 2015 there was already talk amongst lawyers and the judge of a possible dismissal and costs.

At the March 2016 hearing Nottingham was pressed to name additional witnesses. He put forward Slater as an expert witness.

Slater never provided a witness statement as is required. He seemed to want to distance himself from the prosecution – I will give him the benefit of doubt on this, despite Nottingham’s practice in other cases of trying to introduce witnesses and evidence at trial, giving the defences no time to deal with them properly. Again I don’t know if this is incompetence or a tactic.

Then in April 2016 Nottingham had a serious motorcycle accident. He ended up in hospital for a few weeks. He sustained a head injury – not the first. He has also claimed to have had a serious motorcycle accident in I think 1998, also suffering from a head injury with ongoing effects.

Illness has been a prominent factor in a number of Nottingham’s legal proceedings, often resulting in delays and excuses for non-compliance with timetables and legal requirements.

The accident made a very messy prosecution worse, impossible.

Both I and Allied Press filed for dismissal of charges and a hearing was set for late June 2016.

I made a decision to dispense with counsel and represent myself. By now I had learnt a bit about how legal and court processes worked. I considered the case was hopeless, so I was better saving money and trying things on my own.

So I prepared for the dismissal on my own, and filed submissions, as did Allied Press, always on time. Nottingham didn’t. He couldn’t travel to Dunedin so engaged a lawyer to act for him.

The week before the dismissal hearing the APN/Prentice cases went to trial in Auckland. At that Nottingham failed on a fundamental aspect of a suppression breach case – he could not identify the publisher owners. It turned out he had charged the wrong herald company. Slater appeared as a witness and conceded that Prentice was not an identifiable owner of The Standard. So the case was dismissed.

Other allegations, of actually suppression breaches, never got tested at trial, although the trial judge said they were unlikely to have succeeded.

As in my and Allied’s case, Nottingham was claiming that if particular words could be selected out of an article and used in Google searches, and that led the searcher to a particular website, and words were taken from that and googled again and led them to another website, and then other words were used to search that site, and that led to articles that breached suppression, then the publisher of the original article was guilty of breaching suppression.

That on it’s own is nonsensical.

McKinney had tried to show how this could be done. But he already knew what he was looking for. In that case it’s easy to know what words to use in searches to find what you want, and which search results to sue to move on the next search step. Especially when the computer search history knows you already have an interest in the destination website.

The charges claimed about fifteen suppression breaches because that’s how many there were on the destination website. I don’t think there’s any way of proving an average member of then public would end up finding and reading one let alone all fifteen.

What is more preposterous is that Nottingham was claiming that information he supplied to a foreign website revealing the identity of people with New Zealand suppression was fine, but if he picked words out of other people’s articles that he could then use in Google to find his articles then that other person was guilty of a suppression breach.

I arrived at the dismissal hearing in late June, eleven months and the eight hearing after charges were laid, to find out from Nottingham’s lawyer minutes before the hearing was to begin that Nottingham wanted to withdraw the charges.

Leave was put to the judge, and after he clarified that due to time new charges couldn’t be laid the charges were dismissed.

Both Allied and I initiated proceedings to claim for costs.

It is well known that standard costs available in failed prosecutions are ridiculously small. But you can ask for indemnity (actual) costs at the judge’s discretion, if certain criteria are met.

A costs hearing date of September 2016 was suggested and a submission timetable was set. Both Allied and I submitted ion time as usual. Nottingham never served a submission in response.

District courts are under a lot of time pressure. It wasn’t until early March 2017 that we got a hearing set.

Prior to the hearing the court suggested that Nottingham had filed a submission. When we stated that we had not been served the court directed that it be served, and had to repeat the directive when it wasn’t forthcoming.

A few days before the hearing i ended up having to go to court and spend a morning reading their copy. They wouldn’t let me take it away or take a copy of it.

As was typical it was long. It comprised of an attempt to re-litigate his failed prosecution, claiming that we were obviously guilty and but for his accident we would have been convicted, so should be treated as convicted. A withdrawal of charges means that legally we are ‘not guilty’.

And most of it was an affidavit from Nottingham’s brother Phillip. addressed to the World Court, the United Nations and other international legal bodies claiming that it was unfair that Dermot was being prosecuted.

It was a waste of time me reading it, and the only consolation was that it must have been a much bigger waste of time for the Nottingham’s writing it and sending it around the world (if they did that).

Nottingham couldn’t attend the costs hearing. he tried to get yet another delay, but the court insisted that the hearing go ahead.

After the hearing started the court official interrupted the judge and handed him some papers. It was an even later than usual memorandum from Nottingham. Remarkably the judge adjourned the hearing, giving us half an hour to read and work out how to deal with the memorandum.

The hearing resumed, and the judge accepted our suggestion that the memorandum was more ranting nonsense irrelevant to the costs applications.

Then he was interrupted again – another memorandum was hot off the printer. This time the judge refused to accept it.

At the end of March 2016 we got a judgment awarding us costs. The problem was, it was unclear what costs we had been awarded, it didn’t make sense. We had little choice but to go to the High Court with an appeal.

The appeal took place in Dunedin in July 2017. Again Nottingham filed late, but before the hearing this time. he appeared by AV link from Auckland.

Again Nottingham claimed we should be considered guilty because it was obvious he was right and his case was not defendable.

The judge found otherwise and the appeal judgment was in our favour, in that it suggested that as bad faith was involved in the prosecution, and as needless cost had been imposed on both defendants due to the manner in which Nottingham had conducted the prosecution, that something approaching indemnity costs might be appropriate. he sent it back to the District Court judge to set a quantum of costs.

The DC judge decided that he had sufficient information and another hearing wouldn’t be necessary. And in a supplementary judgment in October 2017 he set a quantum of costs at 50% of indemnity costs.

This was a win, although I felt that the judge had not understood the complexities of the attempted prosecution and the hopelessness of the case, nor the vexatiousness of the prosecution. But I would have been happy to leave it at that rather than appeal again. Too much time, money and court resources had already been wasted.

But of course Nottingham appealed, so back to the High Court. He filed late again, despite that sort of abuse of process being a primary reason for having costs awarded against him.

This was a virtual repeat of the first appeal. Nottingham again tried to claim we should be considered guilty, and he claimed that the onus of proof should be on defendants (except \when he is a defendant I presume). And he asked that costs not just be quashed, but reversed and awarded to him.

That’s inane. I could only claim costs billed by my lawyer when I was represented. I could not claim for my own costs, or for lost time or anything. And as far as I know the same applies to Nottingham.

There is no way he could be awarded costs for what I paid my lawyer, which a reversal would presumably mean.

Nottingham lost the second appeal. Judges tend to want good reasons for overturning decisions of other judges. There wasn’t even a legal argument involved, it was a discretionary costs award.

But prior to the appeal Nottingham had already told me he would take it to the Court of Appeal and to the Supreme Court. He made it clear from early on that one of his aims was to inflict as much time and costs on us as he could, And unfortunately the courts kept letting him do exactly that.

So Nottingham went to the Court of Appeal seeking leave to appeal, as you have to do. He was late doing this so it’s out of time, and he also has to seek leave to do that.

This is pending, so as it is before the court I don’t want to say much about it. Submissions from both sides are required next month, with a hearing set down for 27 August – this is in Court of Appeal August fixture list (I am shown as Anor which is incorrect, I should be a separate case to Allied Press.

In the meantime the herald and Prentice have continued too, both having substantial costs awards. Nottingham’s conduct has been slammed – see NOTTINGHAM v APN NEWS & MEDIA LTD [2018] NZHC 596 [29 March 2018] and NOTTINGHAM v APN NEWS & MEDIA LTD [2018] NZHC 1004 [9 May 2018]. That is also going to the Court of Appeal.

The defendants in another failed private prosecution have also had large costs awards. A trial was set down for 3 days and it took three weeks, due to Nottingham’s ‘tactics’. Multiple appeals are also on the August fixture list.

A judgment creditor is filing for bankruptcy against Nottingham, who has accumulated about $250,000 in unpaid court costs. That’s ongoing and complicated, has been on the go since last year, and another story, but is partly covered in HONEY & Ors v NOTTINGHAM [2018] NZHC 575 [29 March 2018].

There’s a lot more detail of an around the attempted private prosecution, but that’s of little interest to most people.

This account is also probably too long winded and of little interest generally. So why write it?

If I had known what Nottingham was like in court proceedings three years ago when this began I would have approached it quite differently. at the time I looked and found very little. I think this is in part because he has scared off a lot of people from exposing what he does, because he is so litigious, and because he and his cronies can be very vindictive and abusive.

I suspect that even judges have pussy footed around him and let him away with far to much in part for fear of being featured on that notorious website where some judges haven’t been spared accusations, abuse and possible defamation.

Talking of defamation, there was one attempt that I think is still before the courts: see MALTESE CAT LIMITED v DOE [2017] NZHC 1634 [14 July 2017] and MALTESE CAT LIMITED v JOHN DOE AND/OR JANE DOE [2017] NZHC 1728 [25 July 2017], in which it is alleged that Nottingham used the attack website as part of a paid for campaign in a domestic dispute.

Why was I included in the private prosecutions? That’s probably a story of it’s own, but I can think of a number of possibilities:

  • Slater held a grudge against me because he has a very thin skin when held to account for crap that he does
  • Spring had a grudge against me for stopping him from using Your NZ in continuing attacks that could no longer be run on Whale Oil
  • LF had a grudge against me – they had reacted negatively when I confronted them on Twitter for making a baseless accuation
  • A post of Nottingham’s charge appeared on Your NZ and he connected that with a police/court/Herald conspiracy

I think that Nottingham et al saw me as an easy target. They tried to pressure and threaten me into pleading guilty to make it easier for them to succeed in the prosecutions of the Herald and Prentice.

And when I stood up to them and refused to buckle they did what they have done with others, they got very nasty, seeking vindictive retribution. This seems to be a common thing with them.

Slater had already found that the legal going can get tough, and seems to have distanced himself a bit, although he was still using Nottingham in legal proceedings a year ago – see BLOMFIELD v SLATER [2017] NZHC 1654 [18 July 2017]

With the conviction and sentencing, and also the bankruptcy proceedings, things finally look to be turning to custard for Nottingham, and it’s not over yet.

And I suspect that things haven’t turned out that well for his brothers or McKinney or Spring either, on top of the self trashing of any reputations they may have had.

Of course there’s a risk I may become a target of their wrath by posting this. But I think public interest – especially of anyone else who becomes a target – is important here.

 

 

Threats of private prosecution

Politicians and journalists are demanding the police prosecute Todd Barclay, but if that doesn’t happen Graham McCready is threatening to get involved – and he says he could  include Bill English in a prosecution.

Stuff:  Private prosecution of Todd Barclay and Bill English suggested

Serial litigant Graham McCready says he will take Todd Barclay and Bill English to court over the taping scandal if the police don’t.

The prosecution would focus on Barclay’s accused illegal reporting and English as an “accessory after the fact”.

McCready’s New Zealand Private Prosecution Service wrote to Invercargill Police on Monday morning advising them that if they didn’t prosecute Barclay and English they would seek to – providing that the complainant Glenys Dickson and other witnesses wished to.

That is almost a threat to the police, and is at least trying to pressure them into taking a particular action.

Will Glenys Dickson and other witnesses (are there any witnesses at all to a recording?) be willing to get dragged in by McCready?

McCready said he would prefer the police led the prosecution, but doubted they would.

“It’s the same all the other high profile cases – painter-gate, ponytail-gate, the punch-up in Parliament. The police just run away,” he said.

Maybe the Police have different considerations, priorities and motives to litigant grand standers.

But some people and the media seem intent on driving this as much as they can.

Notice: Private Prosecution

I am now allowed by the Court to reveal a limited amount of information about legal action started against me in July 2015.


The private prosecutions brought by Mr Dermot Nottingham against Allied Press and Peter George have been withdrawn by leave of the District Court. Allied Press Limited and Mr George face no further charges. Details of the evidence and submissions filed in the case are suppressed until further notice of the Court.


The court deems the withdrawal of charges to be an acquittal.

Due to matters I am not involved in those are the only details I can disclose about it ‘until further notice of the Court’.

I cannot and will not allow any thing more said about this than I have stated above, so any comments, inadvertently or not, that could put myself or this site at risk will be deleted, whether on this post or anywhere on this site.

 

 

 

Private prosecutions

I’m doing some research into private prosecutions, in particular on the powers, limitations and responsibilities of private prosecutors, and the requirements of and protection of defendants and witnesses.

Private prosecutions haven’t been common in New Zealand but have received attention through the recent actions of Graham McCready, most notably the prosecution he initiated of John Banks which was initially successful (Banks was forced into resigning from Parliament) but was eventually overturned on appeal.

McCready also tried to prosecute John Key over the pony tail pulling but he failed to get co-operation from the alleged victim Amanda Bailey and the Court rejected his bid.

Court rejects bid to prosecute John Key over ponytail incident

A private prosecution of Prime Minister John Key over pulling the ponytail of an Auckland cafe worker has been rejected by the District Court.

Serial litigant Graham McCready said Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue had rejected his prosecution of Key.

McCready had been informed that his oral evidence application had been rejected.

“Unlike the police, we have to have everything prepared before we go to court.”

He said he did not have any evidence which was why an oral evidence application was made.

The Law Commission has emphasised the importance of private prosecutions within our justice system but also highlight dangers of the current system.

255 IN THIS CHAPTER we make our final recommendations on the role of private prosecutions within the criminal prosecution system. In essence, we have concluded that the important constitutional and theoretical place of private prosecutions within our system warrants their retention. However, we have also identified dangers that exist with the current system for such prosecutions. To a large extent those dangers arise out of a lack of independent review or supervision of a private prosecution once commenced, and the consequent absence of protections for a defendant.

From the Criminal Procedure Act 2011:

26 Private prosecutions
(1) If a person who is proposing to commence a private prosecution seeks to file a charging document, the Registrar may—

(a) accept the charging document for filing; or
(b) refer the matter to a District Court Judge for a direction that the person proposing to commence the proceeding file formal statements, and the exhibits referred to in those statements, that form the evidence that the person proposes to call at trial or such part of that evidence that the person considers is sufficient to justify a trial.

(2) The Registrar must refer formal statements and exhibits that are filed in accordance with subsection (1)(b) to a District Court Judge, who must determine whether the charging document should be accepted for filing.

(3) A Judge may issue a direction that a charging document must not be accepted for filing if he or she considers that—

(a) the evidence provided by the proposed private prosecutor in accordance with subsection (1)(b) is insufficient to justify a trial; or
(b) the proposed prosecution is otherwise an abuse of process.

So someone wanting to file a private prosecution needs to get a Registrar to accept a filing or provide sufficient evidence for a District Court Judge determines justifies filing of the charge/s.

Crown Law prosecution guidelines:

“PRIVATE” PROSECUTIONS

3.4 Despite periodic calls for the abolition of the right currently vested in any person to lay an information, so-called private prosecutions remain as a part of our system of criminal justice. They are now recognised in s 6 Criminal Disclosure Act 2008 and are bound by its provisions.

3.5 The Solicitor-General has neither a role nor authority in relation to private prosecutions, unless the power to stay a prosecution or to take over a trial on indictment is exercised. However, the Solicitor-General would expect law practitioners acting for an informant in a private prosecution, to adhere to the Law Society‟s general rules of professional conduct and to all relevant principles in these Guidelines.

I’m particularly interested in finding out as much as possible about:

  • what a private prosecutor is allowed to do and not allowed to do in relation to gathering evidence,
  • what evidence a prosecutor can compel a defendant or witness to provide, if any
  • what a defendant or witness is required to do at the prosecutor’s request
  • what protections a defendant or witness has

If anyone can provide any relevant information or links to information it would be appreciated.

Disclosure: I am currently the subject of a private prosecution. I insist on no comment or speculation on this at this stage for legal reasons, but I wish to find out what I can in general related to private prosecutions.

As I have found out anyone can be drawn into legal action. A number of bloggers have been targets of various attentions. This is of importance to anyone participating on blogs or any social media as anyone could easily become involved in evidence gathering, being called to be a witness or as a defendant. As a blogger I could potentially be called on to provide information that some people may consider private. I need to know exactly what I must do and what I cannot be required to do.